Posted by: Juliann Budimir | September 21, 2010

Paris

Paris.  I’ve worn it ever since a Frenchman gave me a bottle when I was sixteen.  Was it the headiness of the perfume or the charm of the giver that lead me away from Chanel No 19?  There was, indeed, a magic to the scent, an exhilaration akin to its namesake, as if the delicately faceted bottle somehow encapsulated a dazzling ounce of the Champs-Elysées, a glint of light reflected off the fountain in the Place de la Concorde, or the tart red awning of a quintessential brasserie.

Before I knew of the evocative power of Proust’s madeleine, memories of Paris lingered on my neck in aromatic hues recalling flowering avenues and literary loves.  From my far-off, temperate clime, I could smile as I read The Sun Also Rises for the second time.  With my senses awakened, the words had visceral impact.  I could see the bars of Montparnasse, the narrow streets of Montmartre, and the Count in all his glory.  Like Hemingway, I had been to Paris, too.

Countless bottles hence, Paris calls again.  Did I actually expect to escape the city’s devastating grasp with a daily dose of the delicate spray on either side of my neck?  How could I not succumb to the numerous monuments bathed in crystalline moonlight or the endless rows of chestnut trees lining the quais above the silvery Seine?  Drinking wine in the shadow of Notre Dame as I gazed up in amazement at the gilded glory of the Pont Alexandre III from the Bateau Mouche, I knew it was true.  One could be in love with this city.

“C’est la plus belle ville du monde,” was the catchphrase of French and francophones alike, “The most beautiful city in the world.”  I agreed, yet my furtive smile revealed a similar passion for Venezia.  (But I’ll save La Serenissima for another time.)  I am not alone in feeling that je ne sais quoi that arises the moment you arrive in Paris.  As a character close to my heart experienced it, “He always felt a certain energy pulse through him as he entered Paris.  It was as if he were visiting both the source and the fulfillment of his desires.  Every building, every monument was a physical representation of his exuberance.  He rode in the taxi from the Gare de l’Est and through the first arrondissement past the Palais Royal and down the Rue de Rivoli towards the Louvre.  He could feel his heart beat with a passion unlike anywhere else in the world and somehow, as the smile spread wide across his face, he felt young again.”

Is a visit to the City of Lights enough to transcend Time?  Can we lose ourselves in its dizzying splendor?  Like starlight caught between the dark and dawn, we breathe the air of dreams.  Enchanted and aglow, we seek the endless light of bright, Parisian days and cool, perfumèd nights.

Juliann Budimir, 2010.  All rights reserved.

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